Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque says all those who oppose President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend martial law may, after approval of Congress, question it before the Supreme Court.
"They are free to challenge martial law anew in the Supreme Court," said Roque on Monday, December 11, during a Malacañang press briefing.
"But please note, there have been two challenges and in both cases the Palace [position] has been upheld," he added.
Roque was referring to petitions filed by 3 groups including opposition lawmakers from the House of Representatives, with the High Court right after Duterte proclaimed martial law on May 23, at the start of the Marawi crisis.
Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman earlier said that with the Marawi crisis over, any extension of martial law in Mindanao is a "patent violation" of the 1987 Constitution.
“There is no more factual basis for the extension of martial law in Mindanao after President Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi City from rebels and terrorists almost two months ago, and government combat forces had been withdrawn,” he said.
Minority senators Franklin Drilon, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Francis Pangilinan, and Antonio Trillanes IV also opposed the extension.
Drilon had said the military and police security assessment, that there are continuing threats posed by terror groups and communists, does not meet the requirements of the Constitution allowing the declaration of martial law.
"The Constitution requires the existence of actual rebellion or actual invasion," said the veteran senator.
Responding to Lagman's criticism, Roque said: "He’s welcome to question this [request for extension] and I'm confident that the government can justify martial law in the Supreme Court."
Asked why the duration of the extension requested was one year, Roque said security forces want a "final period" for the "total eradication" of the ISIS-inspired terror groups and communists.
"I think they want a final period to deal with these acts of rebellion," said Roque.
Recalling that security forces previously announced deadlines for the liberation of Marawi but failed to meet them, he asked the public to give them "more leeway."
Responding to Drilon's assertion that martial law extension has no legal basis, Roque said the military and police assessments provide enough basis.
"We are relying on what the commanders and troops are saying and these commanders and troops are on the ground and we're not in a position to second-guess them," said Duterte's spokesman.
By "total eradication," Roque said the President meant the inability of terror and communist groups to carry out attacks of rebellion.
"We need to ensure that they no longer present a threat, that all acts of rebellion emanating from them cease, and that they are not in a position to endanger public security," he said.
The inclusion of "terrorist communists" as targets of a martial law extension was prompted by an increase in violent acts instigated by the New People's Army after Duterte declared their group as a terrorist organization.
"They have been exhibiting more intense targeting for solders and civilians after the President had already classified them as a terrorist group," said Roque.
Will mining companies have anything to fear from martial law given that Duterte identified "financiers" as among those who must be eradicated and that he accused mining companies who pay revolutionary tax as financiers?
"Individuals who will contribute financial resources may be investigated and prosecuted," said Roque in response.
Asked if this was fair given that mining companies are typically forced to pay the tax by the NPA, Roque said, "Let them invoke that as legal defense."
Noting that NPA presence was not confined to Mindanao but found all over the country, will Duterte eventually ask for nationwide martial law coverage?
Roque said he did not want to speculate what the President will do but noted that Duterte could have already asked for such expansion of coverage in his latest letter to Congress but he did not. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.